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Technology, Oil-Free Air Compressors

How Compressed Air Transformed the Auto Industry


Over the last century, computers and automated technologies have transformed the automotive industry. The addition of compressed air to the assembly line and auto body shops has proven to be an indispensable utility, helping to keep production moving.  

Compressed air in auto assembly

Compressed air touches almost every process in the auto industry, from engine construction to vehicle assembly, painting and cleaning. 

Recent advancements in technology have helped reduce the weight of modern automobiles. In the past, vehicles were composed of mostly of steel, but today, they include a mix of lightweight metals, plastics and composites that are more durable and weigh far less. Pneumatic tools help create these auto parts and power the machines that lift, transport, position and fasten the vehicle’s components. Metal forming machines that stamp and form door panels, trunk lids and structural components use compressed air to turn sheets of metal into critical vehicle components.

Robots using a combination of rivets and welding and factory workers using pneumatic fastening tools all work with compressed air to assembly the vehicles components to produce the unpainted body of the car.

After the vehicle is assembled, it is cleaned and painted using oil free dry compressed air.  Any water or contaminants in the air at the painting stage can cause fisheyes, runs or spattering in the paint. The conveyor system uses air casters to move the newly assembled vehicle down the production line. These casters use dry clean air to create a thin film of air between the work table and the floor allowing the automobiles to be easily moved down the assembly line.

Compressed air in body shops

Reliability of tools and consistency in the paint finish are critical for auto body shops.

Air sanders are used to smooth out the body fillers after repairs. The fine dust caused by these fillers can damage the windings in an electric sander, however a pneumatic sander will not have these issues.  They are much more reliable in dusty environments and weigh less than their electric counterparts.

Body shops and garages often use low pressure oil-free compressed air to operate their spray guns. Choosing the right size and type of compressor is critical in avoiding running out of air in the midst of spraying and having to wait for the compressor to build up pressure. For a quality paint finish, moisture removal is key. Body shops may also use a compressed air dryer and coalescing filters to remove any naturally occurring moisture.

To learn more about how compressed air is used in the auto industry, make sure to contact an Atlas Copco expert.

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